Skip to content Skip to navigation

Lessons Learned in the Assessment School of Hard Knocks

Tomorrow's Academy

Message Number: 

As the authors point out, getting faculty engaged in assessment is a matter of understanding faculty concerns, finding ways to address these concerns, and taking the time to educate faculty about the purpose, methods, and value of assessment. Here are specific guidelines for doing just that.


The posting below looks at some ways to get faculty more involved, and supportive, of institutional assessment. It is from Section Two: Specific Strategies for Advancing the Hallmarks by Carolyn J. Haessig, Armand S. La Potin in, Hallmarks of Effective Outcomes Assessment, edited by Trudy W. Banta. Assessment Update Collections. Copyright © 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 [] Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Institutions With First Year Excellence: Five Criteria

Tomorrow's Academia

----------------------------------- 1,161 words ---------------------------------


Guidelines and Strategies to Encourage Faculty Ownership and Involvement in Outcomes Assessment

Carolyn J. Haessig, Armand S. La Potin

Faculty involvement in assessment is critical, but it is often hard to achieve. As the authors point out, getting faculty engaged in assessment is a matter of understanding faculty concerns, finding ways to address these concerns, and taking the time to educate faculty about the purpose, methods, and value of assessment. Here are specific guidelines for doing just that. From Assessment Update 11: 5. For a listing of hallmarks illustrated in this article see the matrix on page 8.

We chaired our college's Outcomes Assessment Task Force, which included faculty and support staff selected to represent academic affairs, student development, and finance and administration. The task force was charged with planning and coordinating campuswide efforts to articulate and assess student outcomes in academic and student development programs.

The college's initial concern was the address the accreditation guidelines mandated by the Middle States Association (MSA), its regional accrediting body, for the college's five-year periodic review in 1998. Nevertheless, the MSA expects assessment to be ongoing, and college officials recognize the need for it. Consequently, the Outcomes Assessment Task Force is mandated (some might say challenged!) to lead staff and faculty in particular in embracing and conducting assessment.

We organized and were the primary conductors of a series of hearings and workshops for faculty and staff. Following are some general guidelines and strategies drawn from our experience.

Convey a sense of urgency about the need to conduct assessment. Faculty may need to be convinced that they can neither avoid nor delay articulating and assessing student learning.

Although the reasons may vary among institutions, some common ones for undertaking assessment immediately include the mandates of accrediting agencies or governing bodies, the demands of other external stakeholders, and a college's need to ascertain and demonstrate that limited instructional resources are being effectively and efficiently deployed.

Strategies for creating a sense of urgency with regard to assessment include preparing an action plan and a time line so that faculty and staff have a clear understanding of when the task needs to be started, what must be accomplished, and who must accomplish it.

It is important to stress at the outset that there is urgency about getting started and that assessment will be ongoing. Although there are deadlines that must be met, there is no point at which assessment of student learning is finished.

Anticipate and address faculty concerns early in the process. Faculty can be expected to resist change and present reasons why student learning outcomes cannot be articulated or assessed. For example, typical reactions to assessment include the following:

* "I can't." The arguments against starting or continuing assessment activities can be expected to

include lack of time, personnel, or support resources.

* "I won't." Some view assessment as intrusive or professionally demeaning. Some may even see it as

a plot to erode their academic freedom.

* "I shouldn't have to." Some believe (or hope) that assessment is an administrative rather than a

faculty activity.

* "I've already done that." Some insist that they already assess student learning through their

course grading processes, even though they have not or cannot explain the expectations that

resulted in awarding a given grade. Others believe that assessment is the evaluation of their

department and academic programs conducted with the implicit objective of justifying existing or

future resources. Note that although it is important to recognize faculty sensitivities, it is

essential to avoid getting bogged down in philosophical discussions.

Some faculty concerns can be addressed by being clear about who will see the results and what will be done with the information submitted. It is useful as well to explain at the outset how faculty can benefit directly and individually from the process and the outcomes. For example, sharing expected outcomes with students has helped to motivate students, which can provide faculty with more dynamic classroom experiences.

Provide opportunities to enhance faculty ownership in the assessment process as early as possible. For most colleges, the first step in the assessment process is to formulate an institutional assessment plan. Faculty can and must be involved in the development and refinement of this plan. They should be involved in the development and refinement of this plan. They should have several opportunities to affect the plan while it is being formulated and adopted. Faculty must serve on the group charged with formulating the plan. All faculty should be invited to open hearings which the plan is reviewed for comments and suggestions.

Provide knowledge of how to conduct assessment. Faculty may have varying degrees of understanding and experience with each of the components of assessment: connecting programmatic goals to the college mission, articulating measurable student outcomes, identifying relevant experiences to achieve outcomes, identifying and applying techniques to measure achievement of outcomes, summarizing and reporting results, and using results to improve curriculum and learning experiences. Faculty will need varied opportunities to learn how to do what is expected of them with regard to assessment. Leaders can assist by presenting workshops to demonstrate what is required and how it might be accomplished. Faculty can benefit from seeing how easy the process can be and how extensively it is used by their colleagues on other campuses. Techniques and examples should be simple to use, broadly applicable, and cost-effective. Faculty may benefit from exploring any of the numerous institution!

al Web sites that include assessment plans, techniques, and outcomes.

Remember that institutional support is critical to faculty commitment. Faculty must feel that their college president, provost, and academic deans wholeheartedly endorse and support the assessment process.

Administrative personnel should be prepared to send interested and strategically placed faculty to assessment workshops and conferences. The faculty sent should be those who are or will become enthusiastic supporters and willing assessment instructors.

Administrative personnel should also be willing to fund the acquisition of needed reference materials. These materials should be made readily available to faculty and their availability should be publicized.

It is important for administrators and faculty leaders to attach value to assessment and to provide appropriate recognition for those who undertake it successfully. Doing so conveys the institution's commitment to assessment.

If institutional assessment is to yield meaningful results and be ongoing, faculty leadership is critical. Faculty must be the central players in academic assessment and, where possible, assume leadership roles as well. If assessment is to succeed, faculty involvement and leadership must be incorporated into the institution's culture. This can be accomplished by helping faculty see the tangible benefits of assessment, such as how the articulation of meaningful assessment outcomes can intellectually challenge students and how articulated student outcomes can be used to enhance recruitment initiatives. Our first year was spent helping faculty to articulate student outcomes and get their feet wet in the "ocean of assessment." This year's challenge is to work with our colleagues on a micro level, to show them what assessment instrument can best be utilized to measure their student outcomes and how to make use of their data in testing these outcomes.

Carolyn H. Haessig is professor of nutrition and dietetics, and Armand S. La Potin is professor of history at SUNY-Oneonta.